The man had been repeatedly spotted offering to translate between staff at Elmhurst Hospital Center and Korean speakers for a $240 fee, said hospital spokesman Dario Centorcelli.
Hospitals are mandated to provide interpreter service at no cost and freely advertise that fact, he said.
Hospital officials did not release the man’s identity.
Centorcelli said he was first alerted to the recurring problem through an inquiry from a Korean-language newspaper reporter — during an interview conducted through the hospital’s translator service. The suspect was issued a summons for trespassing on Tuesday by the city Department of Health and Hospitals police, who had been on the hunt for him.
“Apparently, this had been going on for a while,” he said.
The man allegedly told a woman who was trying to enroll in the hospital’s affordable insurance program that she needed to pay him for the translation service.
“Somebody charged $240 for a service that we would provide for free,” Centorcelli said. “You could see it happening to any immigrant.”
Centorcelli, who asked that people spread the word of the scam, noted that the public hospital spends $800,000 a year on translation services, which it provides in 130 different languages.
Queens has more than 36,000 Korean-speaking residents who don’t speak proficient English — more than any other borough, according to the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.
What happened at Elmhurst doesn’t seem to be an epidemic. Immigrant advocates who were polled said they had not heard of similar scams. And a spokeswoman for the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs said complaints of similar incidents have not been reported.
Antonio Meloni, executive director of Immigration Advocacy Services in Astoria, said immigrants who have spent a few years in America do sometimes target their own.
“Each time you see fraud being committed against an immigrant, it is usually someone from their own ethnic group,” he said. “People try to take advantage of their own countrymen. We see that a lot.”
Meloni, who estimates his group handles up to 25,000 immigration inquiries a year, said fraudsters will prey on a fear of government and a lack of knowledge of bureaucratic customs.